The textile ministry during the 35th edition of India International Trade Fair (IITF) that kicked off at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi on Nov 14, Saturday, at a high note launched brand made its market debut with handloom products from registered sellers. Eleven handloom organisations and cooperative societies displayed sarees, stoles, shawls and fabrics tagged with the brand's logo and a label certifying their authenticity and quality.
The exhibit at IITF is being used as the brand's pilot to build consumer trust and garner market response before launching India Handloom's countrywide campaign. Sellers at the exhibit were approved after a production site test and sample tests to ensure they produced colour-fast, eco-friendly fabric that met international standards.
Development Commissioner (Handlooms) Alok Kumar said that they have taken some time to register the producers in this scheme because it is a stringent process. About 140 samples were tested and only about 40-45 could pass.
Each brand tag has a registration number that can be used online to verify the seller as a member of India Handloom and certify their product's authenticity. If they are selling a Kullu shawl, the consumer can know whether this registration number holder is authorised to sell the Kullu shawl or not, Alok Kumar said.
So far, 35 sellers have been approved to sell under the India Handloom brand. The Office of the Development Commissioner expects to register 200-300 more in the next six months.
They want to transform the handloom sector so that they are not dependent on marketing incentives from them - they can produce a good quality, branded product and command a better price for it.
The shining white silk of a Salem dhoti, a simple red Mangalgiri cotton saree striped with gold, a comforting mustard Kullu shawl, a Banarasi Tanchoi silk saree with intricate flower patterns, Ikat-dashed ink blue fabric from Orissa and much more. The products on display at Pragati Maidan's handloom pavillion may be diverse, but they share a common thread - the "India Handloom" brand.
On the first day of the exhibition, open only to businesses, the exhibitors under India Handloom said around 10-15 customers approached them to enquire about the products, purchase from them or place orders. The products, priced between Rs400 and Rs15,000 depending on the material and design, are 10-15% more expensive than a non-branded producer's fabrics due to the cost of the higher quality raw materials used in the production, said the sellers.
While market exposure and sales were key points for the India Handloom exhibitors, each had a different reason for choosing to register with the government brand.
Many feel that the tests their samples passed lend credibility to the products and give scope for better pricing. This shows that the product meets world class standards, said Damoder Seetha, director of Pochampally Handloom Park Ltd, which was displaying Ikat design cotton bed sheets. The park, allotted under the Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks (SITP), has the capacity for 550 looms but currently runs 150 and employs 350 below poverty-line artisans.
Some sellers said that they found it difficult to make sales without having a brand label certifying the quality and authenticity. The lack of branding had affected the organisation's annual sales by 20%, the exhibitor added.
Competition from power looms has also made the brand label a welcome initiative. Many handloom designs are being copied on the power loom nowadays, and the customer isn't able to differentiate between the two anymore, said Syed Hasan Ansari, partner at Haji Mohd Farooque & Co., which was exhibiting silk brocade fabric from Uttar Pradesh. Branding helps the customer understand they are buying a genuine product. This will help the handloom industry survive as well.
Organisations like the Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers Co-operative Society Ltd. (Co-optex) also believe that branding and exposure of handloom products will encourage younger people to join the industry. They have seen some interest from the younger generation because their products are also becoming known throughout India, said Senguttuvan, a representative at the Co-optex stall.
The much-awaited India's largest fair is annually organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO). The event will run from Nov 14 to Nov 27, every year at Pragati Maidan. IITF serves as a global platform for exhibitors from around the world to showcase their goods and culture. Over 7,000 domestic and foreign firms from 28 countries are participating in the IITF 2015.
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